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THE COMING OF NOREEN
The next day came a new element in the situation: a ship arrived from
England. On it was one who had come to Jamaica to act as governess to two
children of the officer commanding the regular troops in the island. She
had been ill for a week before nearing Kingston, and when the Regent
reached the harbour she was in a bad way. The ship's doctor was
despondent about her; but he was a second-rate man, and felt that perhaps
an island doctor might give her some hope. When she was carried ashore
she was at once removed to the home of the general commanding at Spanish
Town, and there a local doctor saw her.
"What is her history?" he asked, after he had seen the haggard face of
The ship's doctor did not know; and the general commanding was in the
interior at the head of his troops. There was no wife in the general's
house, as he was a widower; and his daughters, of twelve and fourteen,
under a faithful old housekeeper, had no knowledge of the woman's life.
When she was taken to the general's house she was in great dejection, and
her face had a look of ennui and despair. She was thin and worn, and her
eyes only told of the struggle going on between life and death.
"What is her name?" asked the resident doctor. "Noreen Balfe," was the
reply of the ship's doctor.
"A good old Irish name, though you can see she comes of the lower ranks
The ship's doctor pointed to her hand which had a wedding-ring. "Ah, yes,
certainly . . . what hope have you of her?"
"I don't know what to say. The fever is high. She isn't trying to live;
she's got some mental trouble, I believe. But you and I would be of no
use in that kind of thing."
"I don't take to new-fangled ideas of mental cure," said the ship's
doctor. "Cure the body and the mind will cure itself."
A cold smile stole to the lips of the resident doctor. Those were days of
little scientific medical skill, and no West Indian doctor had knowledge
enough to control a discussion of the kind. "But I'd like to see some one
with brains take an interest in her," he remarked.
"I leave her in your hands," was the reply. "I'm a ship's medico, and
she's now ashore."
"It's a pity," said the resident doctor reflectively, as he watched a
servant doing necessary work at the bedside. "She hasn't long to go as
she is, yet I've seen such cases recover."
As they left the room together they met Sheila and one of the daughters
of the house. "I've come to see the sick woman from the ship, if I may,"
Sheila said. "I've just heard about her, and I'd like to be of use."
The resident doctor looked at her with admiration. She was the most
conspicuous figure in the island, and her beauty was a fine support to
her wealth and reputation. It was like her to be kind in this frank way.
"You can be of great use if you will," he said. "The fever is not
infectious, I'm glad to say. So you need have no fear of being with
her--on account of others."
"I have no fear," responded Sheila with a friendly smile, "and I will go
to her now--no, if you don't mind, I'd prefer to go alone," she added as
she saw the doctor was coming with her.
The other bowed and nodded approvingly. "The fewer the better," he said.
"I think you ought to go in alone--quite alone," he said with gentle
firmness, for he saw the girl with Sheila was also going with her.
So it was that Sheila entered alone, and came to the bed and looked at
the woman in the extreme depression of fever. "Prepare some lime-juice,
please," she said to the servant on the other side of the bed. "Keep it
always beside the bed--I know what these cases are."
The servant disappeared, and the eyes of the sick woman opened and looked
at Sheila. There shot into them a look of horror and relief in one, if
such a thing might be. A sudden energy inspired her, and she drew herself
up in bed, her face gone ghastly.
"You are Sheila Boyne, aren't you?" she asked in a low half-guttural
"I am Sheila Llyn," was the astonished reply. "It's the same thing," came
the response. "You are the daughter of Erris Boyne."
Sheila turned pale. Who was this woman that knew her and her history?
"What is your name?" she asked--"your real name--what is it?"
"My name is Noreen Balfe; it was Noreen Boyne." For a moment Sheila could
not get her bearings. The heavy scent of the flowers coming in at the
window almost suffocated her. She seemed to lose a grip of herself.
Presently she made an effort at composure. "Noreen Boyne! You were then
the second wife of Erris Boyne?"
"I was his second wife. His first wife was your mother--you are like your
mother!" Noreen said in agitation.
The meaning was clear. Sheila laid a sharp hand on herself. "Don't get
excited," she urged with kindly feeling. "He is dead and gone."
"Yes, he is dead and gone."
For a moment Noreen seemed to fight for mastery of her emotion, and
Sheila said: "Lie still. It is all over. He cannot hurt us now."
The other shook her head in protest. "I came here to forget, and I find
"You find more than his daughter; you find his first wife, and you find
the one that killed him."
"The one that killed him!" said the woman greatly troubled. "How did you
"All the world knows it. He was in prison four years, and since then he
has been a mutineer, a treasure-hunter, a planter, and a saviour of these
The sick woman fell back in exhaustion. At that moment the servant
entered with a pitcher of lime-juice. Sheila took it from her and
motioned her out of the room; then she held a glass of the liquid to the
"Drink," she said in a low, kind voice, and she poured slowly into the
patient's mouth the cooling draught. A moment later Noreen raised herself
"Mr. Dyck Calhoun is here?" she asked.
"He is here, and none to-day holds so high a place in the minds of all
who live here. He has saved the island."
"All are here that matter," said Noreen. "And I came to forget!"
"What do you remember?" asked Sheila. "I remember all--how he died!"
Suddenly Sheila had a desire to shriek aloud. This woman--did this woman
then see Erris Boyne die? Was she present when the deed was done? If so,
why was she not called to give evidence at the trial. But yes, she was
called to give evidence. She remembered it now, and the evidence had been
that she was in her own home when the killing took place.
"How did he die?" she asked in a whisper.
"One stroke did it--only one, and he fell like a log." She made a motion
as of striking, and shuddered, covering her eyes with trembling hands.
"You tell me you saw Dyck Calhoun do this to an undefended man--you tell
Sheila's anger was justified in her mind. That Dyck Calhoun should
"I did not see Dyck Calhoun strike him," gasped the woman. "I did not say
that. Dyck Calhoun did not kill Erris Boyne!"
"My God!--oh, my God!" said Sheila with ashen lips, but a great light
breaking in her eyes. "Dyck Calhoun did not kill Erris Boyne! Then who
There was a moment's pause, then--"I killed him," said the woman in
agony. "I killed him."
A terrible repugnance seized Sheila. After a moment she said in
agitation: "You killed him--you struck him down! Yet you let an innocent
man go to prison, and be kept there for years, and his father go to his
grave with shame, with estates ruined and home lost--and you were the
guilty one--you--all the time."
"It was part of my madness. I was a coward and I thought then there were
reasons why I should feel no pity for Dyck Calhoun. His father injured
mine--oh, badly! But I was a coward, and I've paid the price."
A kinder feeling now took hold of Sheila. After all, what this woman had
done gave happiness into her--Sheila's-hands. It relieved Dyck Calhoun of
shame and disgrace. A jail-bird he was still, but an innocent jail-bird.
He had not killed Erris Boyne. Besides, it wiped out forever the barrier
between them. All her blind devotion to the man was now justified. His
name and fame were clear. Her repugnance of the woman was as nothing
beside her splendid feeling of relief. It was as though the gates of hell
had been closed and the curtains of heaven drawn for the eyes to see. Six
years of horrible shame wiped out, and a new world was before her eyes.
This woman who had killed Erris Boyne must now suffer. She must bear the
ignominy which had been heaped upon Dyck Calhoun's head. Yet all at once
there came to her mind a softening feeling. Erris Boyne had been rightly
killed by a woman he had wronged, for he was a traitor as well as an
adulterer--one who could use no woman well, who broke faith with all
civilized tradition, and reverted to the savage. Surely the woman's crime
was not a dark one; it was injured innocence smiting depravity, tyranny
Suddenly, as she looked at the woman who had done this thing, she, whose
hand had rid the world of a traitor and a beast, fell back on the pillow
in a faint. With an exclamation Sheila lifted up the head. If the woman
was dead, then there was no hope for Dyck Calhoun; any story that
she--Sheila--might tell would be of no use. Yet she was no longer
agitated in her body. Hands and fingers were steady, and she felt for the
heart with firm fingers. Yes, the heart was still beating, and the pulse
was slightly drumming. Thank God, the woman was alive! She rang a bell
and lifted up the head of the sick woman.
A moment later the servant was in the room. Sheila gave her orders
quickly, and snatched up a pencil from the table. Then, on a piece of
paper, she wrote the words: "I, not Dyck Calhoun, killed Erris Boyne."
A few moments later, Noreen's eyes opened, and Sheila spoke to her. "I
have written these words. Here they are--see them. Sign them."
She read the words, and put a pencil in the trembling fingers, and, on
the cover of a book Noreen's fingers traced her name slowly but clearly.
Then Sheila thrust the paper in her bosom, and an instant later a nurse,
sent by the resident doctor, entered.
"They cannot hang me or banish me, for my end has come," whispered Noreen
before Sheila left.
In the street of Spanish Town almost the first person Sheila saw was Dyck
Calhoun. With pale, radiant look she went to him. He gazed at her
strangely, for there was that in her face he could not understand. There
was in it all the faith of years, all the truth of womanhood, all the
splendour of discovery, all that which a man can see but once in a human
face and be himself.
"Come with me," she said, and she moved towards King's House. He obeyed.
For some moments they walked in silence, then all at once under a
magnolia tree she stopped.
"I want you to read what a woman wrote who has just arrived in the island
from England. She is ill at the house of the general commanding."
Taking from her breast the slip of paper, she handed it to him. He read
it with eyes and senses that at first could hardly understand.
"God in heaven--oh, merciful God!" he said in great emotion, yet with a
strange physical quiet.
"This woman was his wife," Sheila said.
He handed the paper back. He conquered his agitation. The years of
suffering rolled away. "They'll put her in jail," he said with a strange
regret. He had a great heart.
"No, I think not," was the reply. Yet she was touched by his compassion
"Because she is going to die--and there is no time to lose. Come, we will
go to Lord Mallow."
"Mallow!" A look of bitter triumph came into Dyck's face. "Mallow--at
last!" he said.
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